By Richard Hubbard
Maybe it is why he calls himself ‘Bad News’. Not satisfied with his own performance last time out in taking his record to 8-0, Alex Hughes has been beating himself up ever since.
In the wake of easing to a wide points victory over Alistair Warren in Cardiff back in July, his wise old mentor Enzo Maccarinelli was full of praise and encouragement in his role as BoxNation analyst for the night, while taskmaster trainer Gary Lockett later tweeted a congratulations message to his 22-year-old protege.
Hughes was having none of it though. He was not happy and has been suffering the strange predicament of mourning a victory ever since.
The young man from Maerdy, deep in the Rhondda Valley, isn’t simply nitpicking at a few flaws in his performance, he has been questioning his whole approach to the game. His dedication, how much he really wants it.
He really does want to succeed in the sport, so a reevaluation process was undertaken and changes have been made – in particular to his fitness and conditioning. It really would be bad news for those around him should they ever have to console Hughes in the face of adversity, given his reaction to extending a perfect record, but perhaps it shows a maturity in not getting carried away or bigging himself when experiencing triumph.
Perhaps he does need to find a middle ground and, strangely enough, that is what a new addition to his support structure is proposing.
“I was devastated,” he responded with a sigh when reminded of the 80-75 win on the cards. “Obviously I knew I won the fight comfortably, don’t get me wrong, but with my performance, it was a kind of feeling like I had lost, I was so down on myself.
“I don’t know why, I think it is because I have got so much more to show. It was on a big stage and it was a big chance for me to show what I can do. I didn’t and I was really, really gutted with myself to be honest.”
Hughes acknowledged that being a major home player on the return of a big TV show to his country might have played a part. Trying too hard to wow a four thousand-strong crowd warming up their vocal chords ahead of headliner Liam Williams’ arrival in the ring potentially saw Hughes go a bit gung-ho and not pace himself through the rounds.
Running out of steam is something else that has been addressed during the due diligence carried out on the fight footage.
“Maybe, I have a fantastic coach in Gary who does everything right by me, but I have changed things up since that fight and have got a new guy on board to do my strength and conditioning called Dan Forbes.
“I think there comes a point when maybe you have got to realise things yourself. Am I cutting corners? Do I need to kick myself up the arse?
“I must have been because it is not the first time it has happened where I’ve got a bit tired and stuff. Now I’ve got someone like Dan who is monitoring everything I am doing, so he knows if I am slacking off or whatever.
“So I am not saying I am there yet, but we are working on it and we are on our way.”
Hughes refutes the suggestion that he could have suffered from a bout of stage fright on his big night at the new Ice Arena in the capital, pointing out that he usually thrives on such pressure.
“In all honesty, with all my people being there, it normally lifts me, so I can’t quite put my finger on what it was last time. I can’t point the finger at anyone because I couldn’t ask to have a better team around me.
“I was first on TV and I was lucky to get something like that on such a big bill. I didn’t perform though,” he continued, adding that trainer Lockett didn’t share all of his angst, taking the view that the rounds were money in the bank.
“Yeah I think so, he was happy enough on the night and when you watch it back, the first four or five rounds weren’t as bad as I first thought. I think I fatigued a bit in the later rounds and got a bit sloppy.
“Gary knows I’ve got so much more in the tank to offer than that and he will try and lift me and bring it out of me for next time.”
Next time is October 22 at a bigger venue, the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, when he will again be performing in support of Williams’ quest to put another notch in his Lonsdale Belt, with Ahmet Patterson providing the opposition on what should be another thrilling night of fistic combat.
Hughes is not short of admiration for his stablemate, who is currently the driving force behind restoring Cardiff as a fixture in the boxing calendar. To say the parking up of the boxing bandwagon in Cardiff was well received by the Welsh public would be something of an understatement.
“Me and Liam live in practically the same area and for weeks and weeks the place was absolutely buzzing. The place must’ve been a ghost town that night, I think everybody was there. Liam sold well over a thousand tickets, I sold 300, so the support we received and the way they got up for it was brilliant.
“From the Valleys you don’t see too many people like Liam – who is flying at the minute – and when people do see someone like him they do their best to get behind them and push them on.
“Liam selling that amount of tickets is pretty much unheard of and very few people can sell that many. The guy has not put a foot wrong and that is what I want to be, I look at Liam and that is what I want to do.
“He is doing everything right. In the build up to the fight, when you looked around Cardiff, his face was on all the billboards. That’s what I want and I know I’ve got to put my foot on the pedal now and hopefully we will get there.”
The strides made by Williams have not only provided inspiration and impetus for other local fighters to follow in his footsteps, he is also creating the opportunity for them to shine on their home patch, with the added exposure of the BoxNation cameras being in attendance.
“Exactly, Liam is just two miles down the road from me, so if seeing someone like him doing well can’t push us on I don’t think nothing will. It is making me more hungry than ever and that is what I want.”
Hughes is scheduled to take on Acton’s Dalton ‘The Machine’ Miller at the Motorpoint in what he hopes will be one of his final work experience shifts before stepping up to the more challenging employment he suspects will draw the best out of himself.
As he eases himself up in class, he is also planning in scaling down in weight as a result of his improved conditioning. Against Miller the weight has been set for 11st 10lbs and dropping a further four pounds to middleweight is the not too distant goal.
“I don’t really know much about him (MIller) and haven’t looked into him too much yet. I’m not too sure how much of a step up he is for me.
“I said that after the last fight that the better the person you put in front of me the better I will perform. With Alistair Warren it was something new to me in that he completely smothered me, but it is all experience and if I come across it again I have learned now and will be prepared for it.
“Of course I am still at school, but I have always been my worst critic. Everyone around me here believes in me, but at the end of the day it is down to me as they can’t get in and fight for me.
“We are going to go back down to middle. I have been told by my new conditioner there is no problem with getting down to middleweight if I put the work in – and I think I will be a big middleweight.”
In offering an overall assessment of his career to date, Hughes continued to aim a few further digs in his own direction, suggesting that a couple of quickfire finishes might have lulled him into a false sense of security.
“I started off really well. As an amateur I never had one stoppage, then in my first four fights as a pro I stopped three – two in the first round. I am not sure, but maybe I got into a thing of thinking it is easier than it actually is.
“If it was easy everybody would be doing it, wouldn’t they? Maybe I did take my foot off the gas and it has caught up with me. You can’t cheat and, I know Warren was game, but there is going to come a point where if I do cheat against an ambitious fighter, I will get caught out and will be on the wrong end of a decision.
“Now I will get this fight out of the way and, for my tenth, I want a fight where it is 50-50 going into it. Then it would be me getting a breakthrough and, in time, it would be me featuring on those posters around town.
“Only I can do it and I understand that – no cutting corners.”
Then it will be a good news day for Bad News.